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Out of Control: China’s Distant Fishing Fleet in West Africa

The recent arrival of six Chinese super trawlers in Liberia, capable of capturing 12,000 tons of fish — more than twice the country’s sustainable catch — highlights the growing problem of what to do about the growing presence of China’s distant fishing fleet operating off the coast of West Africa.

For years, Chinese trawlers in Ghana, Nigeria and elsewhere in the region have taken advantage of poor governance, corruption and the inability of these governments to enforce fishing regulations. Today, the Chinese vessels largely operate beyond government control, prompting an increasingly serious environmental crisis brought on from over-fishing that also endangers local coastal communities who depend on these waters for their livelihoods.

What, if anything, can be done to rein in China’s distant fishing fleet operating off the coast of West Africa?

Two guests join Eric & Cobus this week to explore that question: Mark Godfrey closely follows China’s distant fishing fleet as a contributing editor for the industry publication Seafood Source and explains how Chinese government subsidies play a critical role in this crisis. Then, the Executive Director of the Accra-based sustainable fisheries NGO Hen Mpoano, Kofi Agbogah, joins the discussion to talk about how the Chinese fleet benefits from the lack of any meaningful enforcement of Ghana’s fishing laws.

Show Notes:

About Mark Godfrey and Kofi Agbogah:

Mark Godfrey is an Irish journalist covering the agriculture and fisheries sectors in Asia, with a focus on China. Proficient in Mandarin, he has frequently traveled across China’s fisheries and aquaculture regions and learned the inner workings of China’s corporate world during a nearly three-year stint at the Financial Times’ “China Confidential” publication. He has also reported widely across Southeast Asia and the former Soviet Union. He has educational certificates in agriculture and food science, as well as Mandarin.


Kofi Agbogah has over 25 years experience working as a scientist in research, development management, consultancy and teaching. His experience covers water sciences and fisheries, waste management, coastal resources and -. He has been in the leadership – managing the – USAID-funded Integrated Coastal and Fisheries Governance (ICFG) Initiative in the Western Region of Ghana. In the last 4 years, he has worked towards policy shift and behavior change in fisheries and coastal zone governance. Kofi is the Director of Hɛn Mpoano.

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